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Ismailia is a developing Egyptian Governorate, located 120 kms from Cairo on the middle of the Suez Canal steam. Its population of about 751,009 people is distributed almost equally between rural (374,272) and urban (340,737) areas. The economic structure is mixed between agriculture and industry, though tourism also contributes to the income of Ismailia, due to its locale on the Bitter Lakes. It represents an Arabic-Islamic Middle Eastern culture.
     The development of the anti-stigma programme initiated in early 1999 has proceeded from the formation of the Initial Planning Group (IPG) to the nomination and invitation of Local Action Group members.
     We have interviewed more than 200 patients and family members in focus group discussions and obtained multiple evidences of stigma and discrimination. We’ve found that stigma is practised against patients and their families by their neighbours, community, and even children in the streets. Focus group discussions done with medical students including secondary school nursing students; mental health personnel; nurses; midwives; medical, pharmacy and laboratory assistants, and other groups—all suggest that stigma and discrimination are associated with mental illness in general and schizophrenia in particular.
     The IPG has contributed to the WPA effort against stigma by translating the questionnaire assessment tools developed at the Calgary Pilot Site in Canada, and adapting it to the Arabic language and culture. In addition, we've added questions to explore knowledge about the use of the term “schizophrenia” in Arabic or Fusam, since in Egypt the illiteracy rate reaches to 60 or 70%. We have invited a group of fifth year medical students to carry out a mini-survey on Bedouines of Sainte Catherine in South Sinai, and have found that 89% of the random sample knows nothing about schizophrenia. A brochure about the WPA Global Programme was developed for use in meetings with professionals to inform them about our expectations and objectives.
     A research project is being prepared to obtain funding from Suez Canal University, since we are still working within an almost-zero budget.

Contact information
Professor Mohamed Hassib El-Defrawi
Suez Canal University
68 Kasr El-Aini Street
Cairo, 11451 Egypt
Email: [email protected]

Local Action Group
M.H. El-Defrawi
Ismail Youssef
Magda Fahmy
Wafaa A. Haggag
Fatheyia Nussair
Moheb Salem

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